Pet Q&A: Pet reptile poses risk of salmonella germs

Published: Tuesday, May. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7D

My husband has a bearded dragon he has kept since college. We're expecting our first child, and I think Iggy needs to find a new home because of salmonella. What do you think?

Reptile pets can be wonderful, easy-care companions for all ages, but families do need to take extra precautions with them.

Because most, if not all, reptiles carry salmonella in their digestive tracts, these pets are generally not recommended for homes with children under 5 or with family members whose immune systems are compromised. For other homes, the risks can be greatly reduced by properly handling these pets. The Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians suggests these basic safety precautions:

• Wash hands with soap and hot water after handling reptiles or after cleaning reptile enclosures.

• Limit the part of your home that your reptile is allowed to be in, and wash your hands after being in that area.

• Never allow reptiles in areas of the home where food is prepared. Don't share food or drink with reptiles, and don't eat, drink or smoke while handling them. Don't kiss these pets, no matter how cute you think they are.

• Do not put reptiles into bathtubs or sinks. Buy a separate tub for bathing these pets. Pour the water down the toilet, and do not use sinks or bathtubs to clean the reptile bathing tub or any reptile housing or gear.

• Supervise older children to be sure they don't touch the pets and then put their fingers in their mouths. Make sure thorough hand-washing follows each exposure to these pets.

The ARAV stresses that the precautions do not mean reptiles shouldn't be kept as pets, but rather that by following basic common sense in handling them, the potential for human health problems can be kept to a minimum. For more information, visit the ARAV website (arav.org).

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Trendy pet names

• According to Vetstreet.com, the trendiest names for cats are Lola and Dexter; for dogs they're Lola and Bentley. Stella, Cooper, Izzy, Loki, Marley and Nala are also on the upward trend. The least trendy? Brandy and Dakota for dogs, and Katie and Bailey for cats. You also won't get any hipster points for naming your dog Cleo or Scooter, or your cat Tigger or Whiskers. Vetstreet notes that, overall, pet lovers are choosing "people names" over monikers that describe physical characteristics, such as Hershey for a Lab or Shadow for a black cat.

Mikkel Becker and Dr. Marty Becker

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